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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 01/14/2011

Scholars weigh in: What should we expect from Hu-Obama meetings?

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

obamahu.jpg

U.S. President Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a state dinner reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November 2009. (Photo Credit: By Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Will the two presidents announce breakthrough deals on the Chinese currency, North Korea, Taiwan or other highly sensitive issues? Or will the visit be mostly symbolic -- a way for President Obama to show China the respect the Chinese feel they deserve?

The consensus among China watchers is that the chances of the men finding a resolution for these sensitive issues is unlikely, but that there's likely to be progress on other fronts. Hu may press the U.S. to ease its ban on technology exports; Obama may focus on access for foreign firms to Chinese markets. The one thing that's almost certain to happen next week -- because it has happened on every recent trip by a high-ranking Chinese official -- is that the Chinese will throw money around to show that investments can go both ways, announcing large deals with American companies.

The Washington Post's Scott Wilson reports today that human rights will also be addressed. Obama met for more than an hour Thursday at the White House with five advocates for greater civil liberties and human rights in China. A senior administration official told Wilson that Obama will speak about human rights in his public appearance with Hu and bring up the issue during their private meetings.

Scholars at think tanks in Washington weigh in on the historic state visit:

- Bonnie S. Glaser on "deliverables" from the meeting
- Douglas Paal on saving "face"
- Elizabeth Economy on the "unusually frank" statements by U.S. officials in recent days
- Joshua Meltzer on opportunities in climate change
- Victor Cha on North Korea

Bonnie S. Glaser, a former consultant for the Department of Defense and the State Department and now chair of the China program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, breaks down the goals of the summit for Obama and Hu.

For President Obama, the summit provides an important opportunity to engage China's president on a broad range of global, regional, and bilateral issues. At the global level, the United States seeks greater Chinese cooperation in countering proliferation of nuclear weapons, reducing imbalances in the global economy, and combating climate change. Regional issues include preventing further North Korean provocations, promoting regional security cooperation in the East Asia Summit, and ensuring that the results of the referendum on southern Sudan are accepted by Sudan and the international community and that the 2005 peace agreement is fully implemented. Bilateral issues that will be raised by the U.S. side include human rights, trade, and the U.S.-China military relationship.
The Obama administration would like some concrete deliverables to demonstrate to the American public that the president's policy is effective and producing results. A flurry of negotiations has been conducted in the weeks and months prior to the summit to find common ground on issues. Agreements reached at the December meeting of the Joint Commission of Commerce and Trade may be included as summit deliverables.
It is unlikely that a lengthy joint statement will be released since a substantial statement was signed when President Obama visited China in 2009, but it is possible that a shorter statement will be issued that reaffirms both leaders' commitment to promoting a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive bilateral relationship and to working together on a vast agenda of issues.
Beijing is primarily concerned with the symbolic trappings of a state visit, which it sees as being deserved by a Chinese leader. The black-tie state dinner and the 21-gun salute are important signs of respect for Hu to display to domestic observers back in China. ... This is Hu Jintao's last visit to the United States as president and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. He will step down in 2012 and transfer the reins of leadership to Xi Jinping. This summit is therefore an important part of Hu's legacy and provides an opportunity to demonstrate that he has been a responsible steward of the U.S.-China relationship during his decade of leadership. Hu will also want to show that he has defended Chinese national interests.
Sustaining China's economic growth rate is China's highest priority because doing so is essential to preserving domestic stability and keeping the Communist Party in power. Hu will seek assurances for Chinese workers and export industries that American markets will remain open to Chinese goods.
On North Korea, Hu will deliver the familiar message that preserving stability on the Korean peninsula is of the utmost importance and that early resumption of the Six-Party Talks is necessary to ease tensions and implement the provisions of the agreements reached.
The Chinese also hope to improve the image of China among Americans. Prior to the U.S. mid-term elections, many political campaigns ran ads portraying China as stealing American jobs, keeping its currency undervalued to promote Chinese exports, and favoring Chinese state companies over American investors. There is also growing concern in the United States that China is building military capabilities that are aimed at preventing the U.S. military from operating in waters along China's periphery. In Chicago, Hu will tour a Chinese-invested auto parts plant to convey that China is contributing to job creation by investing in the United States. He will also visit a joint U.S.-China clean energy project and a secondary school where Chinese is taught with assistance from the Chinese government, both stops highlighting China's positive role in the United States. In Washington, Hu will deliver a public speech in which he is certain to reassure Americans that China is committed to a peaceful rise.

Elizabeth Economy, who is famous for her book, "The River Runs Black," about China's environmental woes and is now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, comments on the "unusually frank set of speeches and commentaries by senior U.S. officials."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called pointedly for China to live up to its commitment to universal values. Defense Secretary Robert Gates anticipates "evolutionary growth" in military-to-military relations, not "breakthroughs or headlines." And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has made clear that only when China makes progress on U.S. priorities -- such as the reduction of trade and investment barriers, protection of intellectual property rights, and currency revaluation -- will the United States make progress on Chinese priorities, such as the export of high-tech products and market economy status.
This new reality comes at a price. The long-held hope that the United States and China would sit down together and sketch out a path to achieve global peace and stability has become a more distant aspiration. Such mutuality of interests, priorities, and values are not yet shared.
Instead, clear-eyed framing of the bilateral relationship and the absence of a deferential U.S. diplomatic tone signal hard bargaining and the beginning of difficult work to develop the much-needed "habits of cooperation" Clinton has noted.
Why the change?
A year can be a long time in the world of foreign policy, and 2010 was especially long for China. A series of almost unimaginably poor decisions by Beijing has raised serious concerns globally about precisely what kind of power China will be. The year got off to a bad start with the cyberhacking and Google debacle in January. China's foreign ministry compounded the problem by bullying the country's neighbors over long-disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, reflexively defending North Korean aggression against South Korea, and supporting an embargo of rare earths against Japan in the wake of a Chinese fishing boat collision with Japanese patrol boats.
The already dismal year concluded with a bang when Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace prize. The foreign ministry's tirade against Liu and the Nobel Committee only underscored to the rest of the world the great distance China has yet to travel to truly meet its potential as a global power.
China's missteps and miscalculations also opened the door for a reassertion of U.S. leadership, particularly in Asia. President Barack Obama, Clinton, and Gates crisscrossed Asia to reaffirm ties with traditional allies, broaden relations with newer partners and offer reassurance of a deep and abiding U.S. commitment to the region.

Joshua Meltzer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, mentions an issue of great importance to both countries -- climate change -- but that hasn't been discussed extensively in relation to the upcoming visit although Hu's visit does include a visit to a U.S.-China clean energy project in the Chicago area. (Brookings and the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy are co-hosting a clean-energy cooperation forum for high-ranking officials and businesspeople from both countries during Hu's visit.)

On the climate change and energy front, the better-than-expected outcome from the U.N. climate change meeting in Cancun in December will set a positive tone for discussions. In particular, progress was made on the measurement, reporting and valuation of climate change mitigation actions and on financing. President Hu's visit should also provide an opportunity to discuss how China will reflect its climate change policy in its 12th Five Year Plan. The expectation is that China will include the 40-45 percent carbon intensity target it announced at the Copenhagen climate change meeting in December 2009. Other climate change targets are also likely, including one on new energy intensity to replace the 20 percent target in its 11th Five Year Plan.
Without progress in the U.S. on carbon pricing, bilateral climate change and energy discussions should focus on increasing the development and deployment of climate change technologies. The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Centers (CERC) that were agreed upon when President Obama visited China in November 2009 provide a framework for deepening bilateral cooperation in this area. The United States and China will provide $75 million each in matching funds for research at the CERC that will be initially focused on developing key climate change technologies for building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles.

Douglas H. Paal, a former unofficial U.S. representative to Taiwan and now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes about the importance of giving Hu "face."

Viewed cynically, Hu's visit could be seen as a relatively empty meeting, just giving him face in the last two years of his term of office and making up for the half-hearted and clumsy welcome Hu received during his first official visit during the George W. Bush administration. But given the drift in management of U.S. relations by China in recent years, getting Hu on to the White House grounds provides him with incentive to take relations in hand. His "face" is engaged and he has an interest in making his ten-year legacy as leader of China reflect well on his dealings with Washington. It becomes an "action forcing event."

Victor Cha, formerly the director of Asian affairs for the White House's National Security Council and now a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explains why China doesn't push North Korea harder to denuclearize and what the Obama administration wants China to do.

Bizarre as it may sound, the more North Korea relies on China for sustenance, the more China becomes emasculated regarding the ability to pressure the North. This is because Beijing has no metric for determining how much pressure can force change or how much pressure will lead to collapse. Ironically, when others were funding the North (as during South Korea's Sunshine Policy), the Chinese had more room to pressure Pyongyang. Now, the weakness of North Korea is the biggest reason why China doesn't push it harder. At $960, North Korea has the lowest GDP per capita in Northeast Asia, by almost $3,000 (China's is $3,735). According to Foreign Policy's latest "Failed States Index," North Korea is the 19th-most failed state on earth, sandwiched between East Timor and Niger. The last thing the Chinese would want is to force the regime into a tailspin leading to a catastrophic collapse of the state. This could result in massive, uncontrollable refugee flows; unaccounted for nuclear materials; great power confrontation; potential factionalism within the North Korean territory, leading to civil war; and countless other untold horrors Beijing is intent on avoiding. China's modus operandi has been and will likely continue to be to ever-so-gently push and prod the North Koreans in the direction of Chinese- and Vietnamese-style economic liberalization, being always mindful of the potential threat of a "hard landing" in the North.
Three measures seem appropriate [for the Obama administration]. First, the administration probably wants China to compel the North to abide by the 1953 armistice and cease provocations. One simple way of doing this would be for Beijing to state clearly that it opposes any North Korean actions that violate the 1953 armistice (e.g., the Yeonpyeong Island shelling) to which China is a signatory.
Second, Chinese diplomacy should focus on "pre-positioning" the North for an eventual return to Six-Party Talks, which entails: (a) inter-Korean talks and conveyance of condolences for the Korean lives lost in the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong attacks; (b) a North Korean commitment to the 2005 and 2007 denuclearization agreements; and (c) a North Korean commitment to freeze uranium enrichment programs.
Third, the administration would probably want Beijing to cooperate more closely on limiting the proliferation risks from the North, including curtailment of proliferation-related financial activities and more secure monitoring of land, sea, and air routes out of the North.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | January 14, 2011; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  China, White House  
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Next: Multiple protests planned for Chinese president's state visit

Comments

One thing is for sure regarding these meetings, President Hu Jiantia is not going to change my impression of his brutal dictatorship with his efforts, not while they continue to repress their citizens... i just read they had passed a verdict of 'Life imprisonment' for a man who did not pay repeated traffic toll violations! This is just the craziest most paranoid government on the planet, but Russia is a close second...

Posted by: Anonymous | January 14, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

At a minimum, I think it would be a good idea for the U.S. to link lifting the ban on technology exports to China's willingness to enforce intellectual property rights.

As far as North Korea is concerned, I don't expect that there will be much progress on getting the North to change their behavior over the short term. However, as the Economist pointed out last fall, it would be a good idea for the interested parties - the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan - to develop contingency plans to deal with the potential collapse of the North Korean government. For example, how would the U.S. and Chinese military forces interact? Without this type of advance planning, there's way too much opportunity for someone to make a serious mistake. Maybe the U.S. and China can start doing some of this planning during the forthcoming visit, if those discussions are not already going on behind the scenes.

Posted by: apn3206 | January 14, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"At the global level, the United States seeks greater Chinese cooperation in countering proliferation of nuclear weapons, reducing imbalances in the global economy, and combating climate change.

Sustaining China's economic growth rate is China's highest priority because doing so is essential to preserving domestic stability and keeping the Communist Party in power."
By Bonnie S. Glaser

Bonnie, how can China counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons, reduce imbalances in the global economy, and combat climate change if its goal is to sustain economic growth?

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a non-issue, because the use of nuclear weapons would bring our world as we know it to an end.

China cannot reduce imbalances in the global economy, because China manufactures almost every product in the global economy, and no other country can compete with China's labor market which forbids labor unions, has no retirement benefits, no Medicare and no Social security benefits.

Lastly, China neither cares or believes in combating climate change, since climate change aka global warming cannot be proven by science. Because the same science used to prove global warming can also be used to prove there is no global warming.

"China's missteps and miscalculations also opened the door for a reassertion of U.S. leadership, particularly in Asia. President Barack Obama, Clinton, and Gates crisscrossed Asia to reaffirm ties with traditional allies, broaden relations with newer partners and offer reassurance of a deep and abiding U.S. commitment to the region."
By Elizabeth Economy

Elizabeth, America is no longer the leader of the world, because China is now the leader of the world.

For China has the biggest manufacturing base, the biggest military (200 million), the biggest oil, gas and coal exploration and one of the biggest cash reserves in the world.

Posted by: Chuck8764 | January 15, 2011 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Every day i got plenty of news about china's abuse of human rights and china is totally a bad guy. But have you guys ever think of is china really in such a mess ? Now, lets tell you something: china's economy boom(the unprecedented boom) has improved every scope of china, the life standard, military, advanced infrastructure,etc., and those things help define a new world order different from the English culture, and because of that, you western guys now outsmart yourself by dubbing china as "a bad baby", but definitely china goes its own way, it continuously expands its economic clout and gives back good life quality to its people. And now you may know that china just does better than you can expect. PS: DO NOT believe what you see in news about China, because the column reporters always wear some black glasses to watch china. If you have a sinker, then everything's gonna like a nail.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2011 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey Hu, I've got some news for you.
If part of your visit is to get some respect from Obama, that you and your filthy commie government think you deserve, you may get Obama to say it but know this,
YOU HU, AND THE REST OF YOUR PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT WILL NEVER EVER HAVE THE RESPECT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
You and your country are hated and despised here in the United States.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

BTW if *anonymous* (above) had any guts...he'd sign off on his real name. His caricature of PRC is what's known historically *Red China* baiting....! Look a bit inwardly and try to acknowledge the vagaries of American culture and its tragic dissaray (eg. Tuscon).

For Old China hands, there is little, if any thing, BLTW can do to change ways in which the Politburo works on the mainland.
Hu is its principal spokesman.

Introspectively China is more concerned with qlty of its food supply; water resources; rural vs. urban disconnect; impact of climate change and maintenance of its sovereign integrity.

Mao's revolution was +60yrs ago...and it ain't a lot of time in which to focus or accomodate interest of the external world.
There is still a lot to built and renew on the mainland...ie. Modernization!

It'll however come when per capita income and social developments become more comparable and compelling.

Posted by: hariknaidu | January 15, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Read the "experts' opinions", and the readers' comments, I have to, unfortunately, conclude: most Americans are delusional when it comes to China. As someone who just returned from China after 3-week extensive travel in that country, I am telling you guys now, if we don't change our way of viewing and appreciating the Chinese, they are going to hands-down win this epic economic competition (you see many signs already). People, stop being ideological and narrow-minded!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I sigh and pray for the uneducated redneck Americans everyday... alas, they're still rednecks.
It's impossible to deny the power that China wields. It's also impossible to deny that China will in the near future, dominate the World through the strategic use of peak oil and its trillions in U.S. treasuries. Albeit the fact that I'm Chinese and there might be some bias and patriotism, Anonymous is right in saying Americans are delusional. It is true that China faces horrendous human rights challenges in the future, but that's it - humans are vile, greedy creatures, a disgrace of nature. Humans must be controlled, and while my view may be pessimistic and just outright wrong, I admit myself to being just plain greedy. Nevertheless, China's political system is, in my opinion, the best political system out there.

That's just my opinion anyways.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 16, 2011 12:13 AM | Report abuse

At the State Dinner, glasses were raised and Premier Hu said "thank you for cutting spending by $1Trillion in the next 2 years". Strong brandy and aspirins were served. America's 10 years of austerity has begun.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 16, 2011 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Watch closely as Odumbo and his cabal of leftist clowns bow and scrape to the Chinese slug.
That's the essence of Odumbo's foreign policy, bend over for our enemies.
Disgusting.

Posted by: LarryG62 | January 16, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

China was a pariah country in the world just like today’s North Korea until Nixon’s 1972 visit. All the West European and East Asian countries stayed away from China following the US lead until 1972 and embraced China after Nixon’s visit. While US would not give MFN status to Soviet Union (remember Jackson-Vanik amendment?) unless Russia shed Communism, it had no problem giving it to China’s Communist dictators with a capitalist mask. Trade with China expanded by leaps and bounds during 12 years of Republican rule beginning in 1981. After campaigning against butchers of Beijing in 1992 elections, even Bill Clinton became enthusiastic supporter of trade with China once he took lessons in foreign policy from Nixon in early 1993 during a special Whitehouse-arranged meeting. US also promoted China to a super power status by accepting it as a permanent UNSC member.

Had it not been for that Nixon embrace in 1972, China’s rise to super power status would have been far more slower with all the US, West European and East Asian markets closed to cheap Chinese products. Had it not been for that Nixon embrace, China’s technological progress would have been far slower in the absence of West’s technology transfers. Had it not been for that Nixon embrace, China’s military progress would have been far slower in the absence of huge forex reserves that China accumulated from the massive exports of cheap Chinese products and China used those forex reserves to acquire latest military technology.

Now China has US by the tail - US businesses are hooked to huge profits that cheap Chinese products generate for them as a walk through any Walmart, Home Depot, Sears and Macy’s filled with Chinese goods prove and US government is hooked to huge investments that China makes in US treasuries from the sales of cheap Chinese products to US businesses.

China’s rise to super power status to challenge US is a fitting monument to the much-celebrated far-sightedness of Nixon-Kissinger to embrace China to counter Soviet Union in 1972 just as 9/11 attacks is a fitting monument to Reagan embracing Islamic fundamentalists to counter Soviet Union in 1980s Afghanistan.

Posted by: martymartel3 | January 16, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

We are dealing with two super powers Give and take will be minimal If anything the US position is the weaker of the two because of the economic situation Militarily speaking neither is second to the other
I suggest that a hot line be instituted,as in the days of the cold war with the Soviet Union , in case each's client state ie North and South Korea respectively decided to declare war on the other

Posted by: theo musikanth - south africa | January 16, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Cherry Blossoms, Rare Earth Metals, New Rare Earth Mining Partners in Tokyo?

National Security and a Dozen New World Class Rare Earth Partners.

How far would 10 billion dollars go in creating a dozen world class rare earth suppliers?

Tokyo meeting at Cherry Blossom time? A meeting between all the have not nations/companies and all the tiny Australian and Canadian Rare Earth Miners?

The developed countries and their companies need real partners and reliable rare earth suppliers and for the next 30 years!

Now? "Potential shortages? No. Real Rare Earth Shortages? Time to wake up to the new reality! China: The Rare Earth Monopolist.

This New Reality of China: The Rare Earth Monopolist, is not working for 99.5 percent of the world’s countries and their companies.

If this is the New Reality, let’s create a Future Reality!

China in their "Rare Earths Industry Development Plan 2009-2015" says, We(China) have our Rare Earths and we will use them. Now you (developed countries and companies) go find your own!

Potential? How about Real Shortages? Ask any developed country, high tech or military company?

When does President Hu plan to show his “partner” the New Reality? At next week’s show Summit in DC with President Obama?

President Hu, why not show us your Rare Earth "6 year Playbook" next week? The advanced nations and their companies can "get busy" before the "game is over"?

President Hu, are we in Year 3 of the 6 Year Plan? When were you going to share with us the NEW REALITY, THE NEW RULES?

Like China’s total ban of Dysprosium, Terbium and Yttrium exports.

Why not tell us to go invest in tiny Australian or Canadian Rare Earth Miners a couple of years ago? Go find trustworthy partners.

Oh that's right, China was busy attempting to buy Molycorp, Northern Uranium and Lynas to extend the Chinese Monopoly into the next decade!

Not too late for us to buy NTU.AX, GGG.AX, ALK.AX, LYC.AX, ARU.AX, GWMGF, AVL, REE. MCP, QSURD, UURAF. Are there others?

How far would 10 billion dollar investment go to create some reliable Rare Earth Suppliers and real partners for the next 30 years?

Monopolies can be a good thing? At least for the Monopolist!

Fortunately even in the bottom of the ninth, the “game” is not over!

G19 Meeting in Tokyo during cherry blossom week?

A Dozen New World Class Rare Earth Miners as partners!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 16, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Cherry Blossoms, Rare Earth Metals, New Rare Earth Mining Partners in Tokyo?

National Security and a Dozen New World Class Rare Earth Partners.

How far would 10 billion dollars go in creating a dozen world class rare earth suppliers?

Tokyo meeting at Cherry Blossom time? A meeting between all the have not nations/companies and all the tiny Australian and Canadian Rare Earth Miners?

The developed countries and their companies need real partners and reliable rare earth suppliers and for the next 30 years!

Now? "Potential shortages? No. Real Rare Earth Shortages? Time to wake up to the new reality! China: The Rare Earth Monopolist.

This New Reality of China: The Rare Earth Monopolist, is not working for 99.5 percent of the world’s countries and their companies.

If this is the New Reality, let’s create a Future Reality!

China in their "Rare Earths Industry Development Plan 2009-2015" says, We(China) have our Rare Earths and we will use them. Now you (developed countries and companies) go find your own!

Potential? How about Real Shortages? Ask any developed country, high tech or military company?

When does President Hu plan to show his “partner” the New Reality? At next week’s show Summit in DC with President Obama?

President Hu, why not show us your Rare Earth "6 year Playbook" next week? The advanced nations and their companies can "get busy" before the "game is over"?

President Hu, are we in Year 3 of the 6 Year Plan? When were you going to share with us the NEW REALITY, THE NEW RULES?

Like China’s total ban of Dysprosium, Terbium and Yttrium exports.

Why not tell us to go invest in tiny Australian or Canadian Rare Earth Miners a couple of years ago? Go find trustworthy partners.

Oh that's right, China was busy attempting to buy Molycorp, Northern Uranium and Lynas to extend the Chinese Monopoly into the next decade!

Not too late for us to buy NTU.AX, GGG.AX, ALK.AX, LYC.AX, ARU.AX, GWMGF, AVL, REE. MCP, QSURD, UURAF. Are there others?

How far would 10 billion dollar investment go to create some reliable Rare Earth Suppliers and real partners for the next 30 years?

Monopolies can be a good thing? At least for the Monopolist!

Fortunately even in the bottom of the ninth, the “game” is not over!

G19 Meeting in Tokyo during cherry blossom week?

A Dozen New World Class Rare Earth Miners as partners!

Posted by: renderus | January 16, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

i am a chinese,you american do not know what is the real China,you just think about China and chinese people from your newspaper or websites,you cannot know what we think,it make us think you are very stupi d and rude,unaware of the truth
,you even do not know anything about hu jintao,but make improper comments about him,you all Live in the message world construct by the U.S. government ,you need know the truth ,we also care about what you american think about us,just like me,be polite,all amricans,maybe one day china is the leader of the world,even you, you do not know hu jintao's counsel
,and chinese ancient wisdom

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2011 3:39 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Vernice Bottino | January 20, 2011 3:03 AM | Report abuse

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